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Sunrise on Ben Starav

PostPosted: Sat Jul 14, 2012 6:03 pm
by Phil the Hill

Beinn_nan_Aighenan.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts

I was due to meet up with my friends for a week on Arran - but first I had to feed my Munro addiction. The plan was to bag my remaining Munros in Glen Etive. I had already done most of the Glen Etive hills individually in winter, but had Beinn nan Aighenan and Meall nan Eun still outstanding as outliers that had been just a bit too much on winter day trips.

I set off from South London at 8 a.m. on Saturday 26 May. It was a long drive up and I stopped for an early dinner at Stirling services, so I didn't have to take dinner and cooking gear up the hill. It was after 7 p.m. by the time I was driving down Glen Etive. I was surprised at the number of people wild camping down the glen. Having only previously visited in winter, I hadn't realised what a popular spot it was. Hopefully it would be a bit less crowded higher up.

I parked at Coileitir, managing to find a space near the set off point this late in the day. I was off up the track at 7.45 p.m. with my lightweight camping pack on my back, just under 12 hrs after leaving home. The sun was still shining and I could clearly see my intended route up the corrie to the bealach between Ben Starav and Glas Bheinn Mhor.

001 Glen Etive hills from Coiletir by prwild, on Flickr

As I walked over the bridge and stopped to take a photo I could hear voices. Someone then swam out from under the bridge and headed upstream with a leisurely backstroke. They claimed the water was lovely, but the hills were calling me and I needed to get up high before it got too dark.

002 Ben Starav from bridge at Coileitir by prwild, on Flickr

The path had been diverted round the cottage at Coileitir since last I came this way. Fortunately we were in the middle of a hot and dry spell, as it looked like it could get quite muddy. I crossed the bridge over the Allt Mheuran and followed the path upstream.

003 Bridge over Allt Mheuran by prwild, on Flickr

There were a number of different paths here (which I saw more clearly on the way down). I simply followed the stream up into the corrie. The sun was going down now, and I headed into the shade.

004 Sun going down in Glen Etive by prwild, on Flickr

Higher up I met a man coming down, who asked me if I was camping at the col. I said that was my intention if I could get that far tonight and didn't find a better campsite on the way. He said he didn't think there was anywhere to camp on the way up but he knew some people who had camped on the col and it could get windy. I carried on, keeping a lookout for flat grassy spots (of which there were few). As I neared the top I saw some deer heading across the corrie to my left.

005 Deer in Glen Etive by prwild, on Flickr

The sun was setting as I approached the bealach.

006 Sunset in Glen Etive by prwild, on Flickr

I reached it about 10 p.m. and quickly looked for a suitable campsite, as it was getting dark. Bearing in mind the earlier warning about wind, I picked a sheltered-looking spot between some rocks just below the top. I only just squeezed the tent in, and it wasn't pitched too elegantly. There was also a rock under my head when I lay down, but that actually served quite well as an extra pillow. I'd bought an inflatable neck--rest pillow with its own cotton pillowcase in the motorway services on the way up, and this was actually quite comfortable on top of the rock.

The tent flapped in the wind all night. I'm a light sleeper and only dozed fitfully, but that's normal for me. This was my first proper high camp, as I've always wild camped in the valleys before. I bought the ultra-lightweight gear last year, but it was too much of a washout to high camp that year (see But this year the extra effort of carrying a camping pack up the hill and the loss of sleep were about to be rewarded.

I got up at 4.15 a.m. I hadn't bothered to check the exact time of sunrise before leaving, but reckoned it would be about 4:30. I had a quick breakfast bar and grabbed a Frusli, some yoghurty and chocolatey raisins and a can of Red Bull (I'd left the stove in the car, so this was my morning caffeine fix). Leaving the tent and backpack at the bealach, I put on a lightweight fleece and goretex paclite jacket as wind protection and headed off at 4:30 for the summit of Ben Starav. I'd bagged it before in winter, but I wasn't going to pass up the opportunity to visit such a fine hill again at sunrise.

At 4:45 as I headed up the ridge to the first top, the sun came up behind me.

007 Sunrise by prwild, on Flickr

008 Sunrise over Glen Coe by prwild, on Flickr

The top of Stob Coire Dheirg ahead was now lit up with alpenglow. "Dheirg" seemed an apt description this morning.

009 Alpenglow on Ben Starav by prwild, on Flickr

It was February 1996 the last time I came this way. I vaguely remembered there was a good ridge, which was fun in good winter conditions. Today it was orange instead of white. The photos in this report have been photoshopped, but I have left the orange glow on these ones untouched.

It was a bit further than I had expected (having left the map at the tent), but the summit could be seen ahead.

010 Ben Starav by prwild, on Flickr

Looking back to my left I could see Beinn nan Aighenan, my main objective for this trip.

011 Beinn nan Aighenan by prwild, on Flickr

On reaching the first false summit, I was surprised to find a summit plateau which hadn't been apparent from the map. This looked a better campsite, but it would have been windier and the bealach had been far enough last night. Besides, I'd have missed the climb up in the alpenglow.

The views from here at dawn were well worth the effort. Ben Cruachan was looking particularly fine.

012 Ben Cruachan by prwild, on Flickr

But I still had the summit to reach, and the views should be even better from there.

013 Ben Starav Summit by prwild, on Flickr

Indeed they were...

014 Glencoe Hills by prwild, on Flickr

015 Loch Etive by prwild, on Flickr

016 Summit Cairn by prwild, on Flickr

017 Loch Etive Panorama by prwild, on Flickr

I had reached the summit at 5:30. I stayed here for a while, having my breakfast, taking the photographs and enjoying the views. But eventually I headed back down to my campsite.

018 Campsite col by prwild, on Flickr

I couldn't make out the tent, and it isn't apparent on the web version of the image, but it's there in the original photo if I enlarge it (above and to the left of the rocky outcrop at the lowest point).

On returning to the tent at 6:30 I took the backpack with my water and some more snacks, but left the tent pitched at the bealach. I now headed down to the lower bealach between the main ridge and Beinn nan Aighenan. This detour had been just a bit too far lateish on a winter afternoon, but it was now early on a summer morning.

019 Bealach by prwild, on Flickr

The sun was now up, but it was still before the heat of the day. Nobody else was around. As I climbed up to the summit, but I had a fine view of the main ridge of the Glen Etive Munros behind me.

020 Etive Hills Panorama by prwild, on Flickr

A lone young birch tree was growing by the path, having somehow escaped the attention of the deer.

023 Lone Birch by prwild, on Flickr

Soon I was at the summit.

021 Summit Cairn by prwild, on Flickr

022 Beinn nan Aighenan Summit Panorama by prwild, on Flickr

It was now 8 a.m. I had a snack and then headed back to my campsite.

024 Climb to the col by prwild, on Flickr

I strayed a bit too far to the right on the way back up, overcompensating as I tried to avoid losing too much height. I was back at the tent at 9:30, encountering my first other people of the day on the bealach. They had just come up my ascent path, having obviously made an early start, but were still too late for the best conditions of the day.

025 Campsite by prwild, on Flickr

I now took the time to cast a critical eye over my campsite in full daylight. The space I had crammed the tent into wasn't really big enough, and it had flapped about so much anyway that perhaps I would have been better off on a bigger and more exposed space. However, I gather pitching them taut enough is a problem with Laser Competitions. Anyway, I struck camp, had another snack and contemplated my next move.

I knew I ought really to take the backpack with tent along the ridge over the intervening Munros to Meall nan Eun and claim my final tick for the range. At 10 a.m. on a summer morning, I had plenty of time. But I did not have plenty of food or water left and the heat of midday was ahead. I would probably have gone for it if I still had to do the intervening Munros or was travelling really light, but I just did not fancy them with the camping pack. I felt satisfied with what I had done already this morning and preferred to descend the way I had come before it got too hot.

026 The way back down by prwild, on Flickr

I found a great bathing pool in the stream on the way down.

027 Bathing pool by prwild, on Flickr

There was still nobody else around, so I stripped off and washed off the dirt and sweat. Last night I had only splashed some water in my face as I refilled my backup water bottle (having drunk the Coca Cola that came in it). Bathing in mountain streams is one of the pleasures of hot summer days in Scotland. I took a video to capture the tinkling sound of the water.

I dried myself off with my ultralight travel towel, and carried on down at a leisurely pace.

028 Gorge of Allt nam Meirleach by prwild, on Flickr

The path I followed down veered away from the stream and joined up with the path coming down the ridge of Ben Starav before it rejoined my ascent path by the stream.

029 Path junction by prwild, on Flickr

I had a leisurely stroll back along the valley floor, enjoying the morning sunshine and taking a few photographs.

030 River Etive by prwild, on Flickr

031 Bridge over Allt Mheuran by prwild, on Flickr

032 Alders and bluebells by prwild, on Flickr

033 Riverside path by prwild, on Flickr

034 Rhododendrons and bluebells by prwild, on Flickr

My water bladder ran out about here. I normally just use a bottle, but had taken the bladder this time as it could have been a long hot trip. I had been taking regular sips, but the problem with bladders is you can't tell when they are going to run out, so can't pace yourself. When I stopped on the bridge over the river at Coileitir I broke out the reserve bottle I had filled from the highest stream on the ascent.

035 Stob Dubh from bridge at Coileitir by prwild, on Flickr

I was back at the car at 12:00. Apart from the two lads on the col, I hadn't met anyone on the descent until the last stretch by the river. Everyone seemed to be setting off about 11 a.m. into the heat of midday. Mad dogs and Englishmen :crazy: When one of them asked me where I had been, I smugly informed him I had already done Ben Starav and Beinn nan Aighenan.

This trip completely sold me on high camps. I hate heavy packs, but I had now proved I could reach the tops with the ultralight gear and had finally managed to cut out all the unnecessary stuff I used to take. I now intend to bag Munros at dawn whenever possible. The trouble is that the weather isn't always good enough to justify it, and it's a lot harder to make an earlier start unless you're on your own.

I drove to the Kingshouse for lunch and to study the map. The haggis and mature cheddar pannini washed down with a pint of real ale just hit the spot after the morning's walk. I contemplated another overnighter to Meall nan Eun, either from Glen Etive or from Victoria Bridge. But I decided to leave it for another day and join my friends on Arran. My Munro cravings had been satisifed for now - and there were some fine Corbetts calling me.

So I spent the afternoon driving down via Inverary to the Mull of Kintyre and the Arran ferry at Claonaig. I missed the ferry by a few minutes and it was an hour and a half to the next one, but I had a fine view of the Arran hills from the ferry terminal, so was happy to wait.

036 Arran from Claonaig by prwild, on Flickr

This shot is now my iPhone wallpaper.

Eventually the ferry arrived.

037 Lochranza ferry by prwild, on Flickr

We say dolphins on the crossing. I only just managed to capture them on camera.

038 Dolphins by prwild, on Flickr

I haven't been to Arran by the Ardrossan ferry since I was a child, but this seemed a much better way to cross. You could just drive on and off without advance booking and it was cheaper. Of course, it's a long way round to the Mull of Kintyre if you're coming from London - but if you go via Glen Etive it's a great way to reach Arran.

Re: Sunrise on Ben Starav

PostPosted: Sat Jul 14, 2012 7:36 pm
by LeithySuburbs
I was on the adjacent 2 munros on that Sunday - it was some day [perspiring smiley] :D !

Re: Sunrise on Ben Starav

PostPosted: Sat Jul 14, 2012 8:09 pm
by soulminer
Never tire of the views from Starav, a personal favourite 8) You have some fine sunrise images there, I know from experience it would have been better watching it as it happened though :thumbup: :lol: The biggest surprise was stripped and washed :wtf: If you are camping I am sure this is most definately ILLEGAL :lol:

Re: Sunrise on Ben Starav

PostPosted: Sat Jul 14, 2012 9:46 pm
by Paula Hubens
Wow, some nice pics you took there!
I can't believe you walked up after having driven for 11 hours! :clap:

Re: Sunrise on Ben Starav

PostPosted: Sat Jul 14, 2012 11:17 pm
by pigeon
Some great pics Phil ,your efforts were rewarded with some great weather,well done :thumbup:

Re: Sunrise on Ben Starav

PostPosted: Sun Jul 15, 2012 12:14 pm
by wilkiemurray
good effort love the pictures - almost forgotten what blue sky looked like :clap:

Re: Sunrise on Ben Starav

PostPosted: Sun Jul 15, 2012 9:05 pm
by Phil the Hill
Thanks everyone! It was difficult not to take good pics in such a place in such conditions. The new Ixus 240HS helped though. These were the first proper set of pics I took with it.

I might have met you Leithy if I'd carried on. But two were enough on a day like that.

Soulminer, I'm only qualified as an English lawyer but I don't think skinny dipping is illegal in Scotland unless someone else sees you :shock: :lol: It was just a quick dip to get rid of the sweat.

Paula, after driving all that way and finding the good weather was holding, I was d**n well going to get up a hill before it changed. And I didn't fancy the crowds down in Glen Etive.

Re: Sunrise on Ben Starav

PostPosted: Sun Jul 15, 2012 9:08 pm
by Alan S
Excellent report and pics 8) well done

Re: Sunrise on Ben Starav

PostPosted: Sun Jul 15, 2012 9:32 pm
by mrssanta
I'm sure skinny dipping is perfectly legal. If you get spotted you might cause a little embarrassment, but who could take offence at it up a hill with nobody around?